Friday, January 10, 2020

Endangered Historic Sites in New Jersey: East Point Lighthouse

Besides the species that are threatened and endangered in New Jersey, there are also places that are threatened and endangered.

Founded in 1978, Preservation New Jersey is a statewide member-supported non-profit historic preservation organization. They publish the annual 10 Most Endangered Historic Places in order to draw attention to remarkable sites and to their many challenges.

The point of the list is to bring attention and therefore be a catalyst for positive solutions. Their program spotlights irreplaceable historic, architectural, cultural, and archaeological resources in New Jersey that are in imminent danger of being lost.

The list is generated from nominations by the public. Half of the sites on this year’s list are owned by the government and suffer from prolonged deferred maintenance, damage by forces of nature, and from a general lack of awareness or respect for the resource. Not surprisingly, insufficient financial resources are a major problem in saving these places.

One example from the 2019 list is the East Point Lighthouse in Maurice River Township (Cumberland County). This lighthouse sits on an outcropping of land where the Nationally-designated Wild and Scenic River system of the Maurice River enters the Delaware Bay in Cumberland County.

It was built in 1849 making it the second oldest existing lighthouse in New Jersey.

Despite a full restoration done in 2017 through the assistance of New Jersey Historic Trust and Federal Department of Transportation grant funds, this picturesque brick Cape Cod style lighthouse is considered far from safe and secure. The mouth of the Maurice River and the adjacent bayshore is rapidly eroding, and tidal waters erosion has already washed out the protective dunes. Stewards of the lighthouse are left with sandbag brigades in a futile attempt to hold back tidal waters and storm surge. Even with this effort, bay waters regularly lap at the front of the lighthouse and the basement fills with water.

Certainly, some of the erosion is the same as other water-adjacent historic resources around the world caused by climate change. 

The East Point Lighthouse is still being used as an active navigational aid and so should get a more immediate response than what has been proposed to date. The site is owned by the State of New Jersey who will hopefully act expediently in 2020 to protect this National and State Register listed site before the structure is gone forever.

No comments: